Tuesday 7th February 2023, Staplehurst: Local leaders met this week with South East Water (SEW) CEO, David Hinton, to get to the bottom of the issues that led to water shortages across the Weald of Kent in the run up to Christmas.
Helen Grant MP, together with County, Borough and Parish Councillors from the Weald, were all in attendance to hold SEW to account and to ensure clear plans were in place to prevent such an incident from happening again. SEW were also asked to outline exactly what was happening by way of financial compensation for families and businesses impacted.
SEW reported that they are seeking to improve ‘interconnectivity resilience’ as part of their enhancement schemes for 2025-30. Interconnectivity will allow them to transfer water in from other areas, in times of emergency, to ensure homes and businesses are not left without any water at all, as was the case in December.
They further disclosed that work is being undertaken on a ‘Smart Sensor Network’ which will allow them to better locate and address leakages in real time.
SEW accepted that their initial communication response fell well below par and said they will be working with other agencies, including UK Power Networks to make improvements. They will also be tuning into local communication networks to progress this.
SEW say they have been in contact with those most impacted by water supply interruptions and are working on appropriate compensation. The company also gave assurances that all homes affected by the loss of water will receive financial compensation of up to £250 in credit on their account – equivalent, they say, to an average annual water bill. Alternatively, customers can ask to have it credited to their bank account.
In addition, businesses will be getting £500 credit automatically, plus additional compensation depending upon their individual circumstances. SEW have told businesses to claim through their business insurance but will provide help covering uninsured losses, including covering excess payments where possible.
Helen Grant said, ‘I was pleased to organise this important meeting, which was constructive. However, ‘talk’ is easy and my constituents need tangible action from South East Water.
I will be holding them to account at our next meeting in 6 months time, to establish what progress they have made.
I have also asked their CEO David [Hinton] if Staplehurst can be used as a pilot area to develop their Smart Sensors Network and I look forward to hearing more about this over the coming months.
Compensation for those who have suffered loss is also important and I will be monitoring this very closely ’
Cllr. Louise Brice added, ‘Residents and businesses suffered significant disruption and distress during the run up to Christmas, due to the issues South East Water had with their network. We want to see three things moving forward: 1) appropriate compensation, 2) improved communication and 3) more resilience built into the system. We want leaks fixed in an efficient and timely fashion too.'